There has been some wonderful analysis of Tuesday's primary election results in the burghosphere and much deserved props to campaign managers, staff, and volunteers of our newly elected city council members Dowd, Kraus, and Burgess. While this has yet to be exhausted because of the many perspectives of analysts and the important things it symbolizes, I have begun to think of how policy-making for city government functions might take a turn.
Rick Earle broke a story "Pittsburgh EMS Response Time Below National Standards". He presents a shocking case of an 86-year old woman who waited almost half an hour for an ambulance to arrive after a neighbor called 911. He reports that:
National Standards call for paramedics to arrive at life-threatening emergencies within eight minutes 90 percent of the time.Now, it was confusing in March when we heard that we did/didn't have a great disaster preparedness plan for the city. But the stewards of tax dollars must make decisions on what city services to prioritize and then how to fund those services. But city EMS is functioning below national best practice standards. And, while I'm sure they are doing the best they can, EMS experienced budget cuts and can only deliver the best services they can with that budget.
Here are Pittsburgh EMS response times for the last four years:
•2003 : 75 percent of the time
•2004 : 70 percent of the time
•2005 : 65 percent of the time
•2006 : 66 percent of the time
EMS Chief Robert McCaughan told Earle that when the call came in at 4:32 p.m. the two units on the North Side were already out.
Paramedic Union President Jeff Vesci told Earle, “When the service gets taxed it's not uncommon for a half- hour to an hour to wait for an ambulance.”[because life-threatening emergencies take priority]
Vesci said budget cuts forced the elimination of 30 EMTs several years ago and that may be affecting response time.
Vesci told Earle,” We need four more ALS (advanced life support) units to make the system right and then we can handle anything.”
Vesci also told Earle there are other problems with the priority system.
Back in 2005, Peduto was campaigning on "outcome based budgeting":
The budgeting method "is a move away from the special interests to the general interest of taxpayers ... completely overhauling the way we do budgeting in this city,"Peduto says.Recently, Peduto advocated a performance based system with the issue of street paving. Dowd's campaign promises include listing second that "[he] will work to deliver city services at the high standard working people deserve by monitoring and assessing performance". And that's a smart and transparent delivery of city services.
Peduto is proposing a full-scale change in the city's budgeting methods, adopting an "outcome based budgeting" method that has been used by state governments such as Florida and Washington. Governments first identify their most important initiatives -- such as parks or police protection -- allocate their taxes and other resources according to those goals, and regularly benchmark their implementation.
It's not well known that Pittsburgh gave birth to emergency medical services, the model that is now used WORLDWIDE, with Freedom House. It's sad that the city that pioneered this essential public service is now underperforming according to national standards. Perhaps this swelling of progressive candidates will divest the old patronage system of its negative human capital and return city government to the people with transparency and accountability.